LONDON – Chelsea hired Thomas Tuchel as manager on Tuesday on an 18-month contract to replace the fired Frank Lampard.
Tuchel, a 47-year-old German, is back in work a month after losing his job at Paris Saint-Germain following a power struggle with the club. In his 2 1/2 years in Paris, he led the team to back-to-back French league titles and the Champions League final last season.
His first match in charge will be against Wolverhampton on Wednesday, with Chelsea languishing in ninth place despite spending nearly $300 million on new players for this season.
Tuchel can attend the match by using an English pandemic allowance for workers flying into an elite sports environment to avoid full quarantine by testing negative for the coronavirus.
“It is never easy to change head coach in the middle of the season but we are very happy to secure one of Europe’s best coaches in Thomas Tuchel,” Chelsea director Marina Granovskaia said.
“There is still much to play for and much to achieve, this season and beyond. We welcome Thomas to the club.”
Lampard, a Chelsea great as a player, lasted 18 months before getting fired as its manager following a run of five losses in the last eight league games which threatens the team’s ambitions of a top-four finish and Champions League qualification.
“We all have the greatest respect for Frank Lampard’s work and the legacy he created at Chelsea,” Tuchel said. “At the same time, I cannot wait to meet my new team and compete in the most exciting league in football. I am grateful to now be part of the Chelsea family — it feels amazing.”
Tuchel, whose deal gives him the possibility to extend his contract beyond the initial 18 months, retired from playing at 24 because of injury and coached at Mainz and Borussia Dortmund before PSG, making him a much more experienced manager than Lampard.
He lasted only two years at Dortmund, where he won the German Cup, before being fired after falling out with officials — just as he would do at PSG. As important as gaining favor with Chelsea's Russian billionaire owner, Roman Abramovich, who can be ruthless in firing managers — as Lampard can now attest — will be getting the club's senior players on side.
Player power has been a term used to describe events at Stamford Bridge since the days of Jose Mourinho's first spell and it will no doubt have been involved in the decision to part ways with Lampard.
A divisive character at times because of his penchant for being outspoken, Tuchel will be helped by the relationships he already has with Thiago Silva, from PSG, and Christian Pulisic, from Dortmund.
One of Tuchel's biggest tasks will be getting the best out of two of his compatriots, Timo Werner and Kai Havertz, who were among the new signings bought at great expense last summer but have struggled so far at Stamford Bridge.
Werner, for example, scored eight times in his first 12 games, but has scored only once in his last 14 appearances.
While Chelsea look a long way off the title, despite being briefly in first place in early December, the unpredictability of this season like no other means a strong run of results could quickly see the team back in the mix. Success in the cups could be used as a springboard for Tuchel, with Chelsea still in the FA Cup and into the last 16 of the Champions League, where the opponent is Atletico Madrid.